Caper

Capparis spinosa L.

Introduction

The caper is a shrubby deciduous plant, 3 to 5 feet high, native to the Mediterranean area.

It is grown for its flower buds, which are pickled or brined as a condiment.

It is used mainly in Europe and grown mostly in Africa and Spain and Italy, allthough crop information for other parts of Africa, Greece and the Middle East are not readily available.

C. sodala, a related caper known as timbuctoo, is grown in northern Africa and C. corymbifera is grown in South Africa.

Unopened flower buds are hand harvested during the summer, often daily, as smallest buds are most valuable. A mature plant can produce 8-9 kg of fresh buds a year.

Fresh buds do not have the capers signature taste until processed by pickling or brining.

Production

Seed germination and seedling growth is slow, so plants are generally propagated by cuttings taken February to April.

Plants will live 20 to 30 years if properly pruned and if protected from temperatures less than 18 degrees F.

One-year-old rooted cuttings are commonly used. During the first year bud production is low, but by the fourth year production reaches full potential.

Annual applications of about 100kg/ha of a mixed fertilizer are recommended, and the plant should not be subject to moisture stress but requires well drained soil.

Plants go dormant in the fall and pruning is best then.
Tender new shoots in spring are sometimes harvested as an asparagus-like vegetable, but taking too many shoots will hurt the bud supply.

Plants are relatively free of disease and insect pests.

Seed Sources

Pacific Tree Farms
Chula Vista California 619-422-2400
- sells caper plants in containers

Richters
PO Box 26
Goodwood Ontario
ON LOC 1AO
416-640-6677
- sells seeds

Park Seed Company
Cokesbury Rd
Greenwood South Carolina 29647-0001
- sells seeds

San Marcos Growers (Wholesale inquiries only)
P.O. Box 6827
Santa Barbara, CA 93160
Phone, Fax and E-mail:
Phone:(805) 683-1561
Fax:(805) 964-1329
E-Mail:sales@smgrowers.com
Sandeman Seeds
E-mail: Sandemanseed@btinternet.com

The Croft, Sutton
Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 1PL
United Kingdom
Tel: 44 (0)1789 869315
Fax: 44 (0)1789 869400

XARMA Pty. Ltd. (source of improved caper clones)
PO Box 37
Eagle Heights
Queensland 4271 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 7 5545 4078
Email: rfossard@onthenet.com.au
Internet: http://www.xarma.com.au/capers.htm

Post-Harvest and Packing

Preserve in vinegar or under layers of salt in a jar.

Found in:

France
caprier, capres, fabagelle, tapana
Italy
cappero, capperone (fruit)